Desert Companion

Best Mode

Andrew KiralyI often compare Vegas to a Russian nesting doll, but one with neon and video poker instead of those lidless, accusing eyes. You get past the touristy shell, the strip mall shell, the sleepy isolationist suburban shell, the fakers and takers shell, various other harrowing and deceptive shells, and you eventually arrive at the creamy mixed-metaphor caramel center of The Real Las Vegas.

It can sometimes take years of trial and error and word of mouth to get to the center. (Believe me — I was born here, and I’m still popping those dolls open.) But I like to think that our annual Best of the City is something of a mission-minded cheat sheet, better than any cluster of online reviews or breezy internet listicle, that can at the very least help you nail down a few solid recommendations for dining, entertainment, shopping, and more. And they are, I hope, more than just mercenary, consumer recommendations. In most cases, our expert contributors’ picks for Best of the City represent places with a bit of meaningful story or soul or personality. (Even those impossibly posh luxury spas with walls made of salt.) And if you don’t ultimately find the Real Las Vegas within, no biggie. You’re sure to discover your new favorite taco spot, hair salon, or local band — which means you’re definitely on the right path to the center.

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